There is something I think quite special about art that works on different levels, and/or says different things to different people. This goes for older artforms – people are often affected in different ways when looking at the same picture or sculpture or listening to the same music. Some of the best movies I have seen in recent years were equally accessible to children and to adults (although sometimes we might laugh or cry at different times, which can be both embarrassing and hilarious). I’m not saying it is a great movie, but the gag in the Lego Batman movie about previous big screen incarnations raised guffaws from yours truly and one other bloke in the cinema but sailed over the heads of the mostly pre-teen audience (one of those ‘oh dear, we seem to have forgotten the children again’ moments as I and the Lovely Wife like to refer to them).
Sometimes I mistake the effect that something might have. I have several things I am passionate about that I feel I pretty much foist on my long-suffering Lovely Wife. Certain gigs. Making her watch certain TV series that are important to me and I want to share with her, so I can have a proper conversation about them. I try and keep the quality fairly high if possible. I’m not going to make her watch Highlander 2: The Quickening. Frankly, no one should have that horror inflicted on them (indeed, I judge that terrible piece of misjudged celluloid to be the only movie I have considered walking out of, and in that case, it has had plenty of competition over the years).
But, sometimes I’m wrong about what she thinks.
Last night we had the joy of attending a performance at the Barbican in London featuring the author Neil Gaiman and the BBC Symphony Orchestra – which will go out on Radio 3 and Radio 4 before Christmas. ‘Playing in the Dark’ was a mixture of readings from Gaiman’s writing and short accompanying pieces from the orchestra, mostly crowd pleasers like Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. It was a packed house, and the orchestra seemed to be enjoying themselves, as the Lovely Wife and I tried to work out what some of the more unusual instruments were (I guessed a Contrabassoon, but what I know about instruments would not fill the back of a postage stamp, I having failed abjectly to even manage the recorder at school).
Now, I have dragged the Lovely Wife along to several Gaiman related events and always assumed that she was humouring me. It turns out she enjoys his work too – and he is pretty mesmeric when reading from his own material. But maybe we get different things. One of the readings was the story ‘The Man who forgot Ray Bradbury’ a story that Neil wrote for Ray himself to be read at his bed side when he was 91. For me it is a story full of references to Bradbury’s eclectic SF output, and the fun was spotting them. For the Lovely Wife – who has not read these books – it was the emotion in the story, the passion and frustration of someone who may be suffering from dementia but resolutely fighting it with intelligence and humour. Basically, it is a damn fine piece of writing and for me, like the best of any art, it leaves you with much to talk about afterwards. Art can make you laugh, cry, offend you or make feel like a high-flying bird, but if it has any worth it must impact you somehow. And the difference that might be felt in that impact gives us something else to talk about (because even for Brits chatting about the weather does get old sometimes)